That’s right. The Boston Red Sox wake up this morning to find themselves tied in the standings. For first place. The team that everyone somehow decided was out of the race after one week of the season is now sitting at the top of the division. How did they do it? For starters, they became the team everyone knew they would be. They pitched like we all assumed they would. They’ve been hitting just like they were supposed to. More specifically? Carl Crawford has been hitting like he was supposed to.
Since Carl Crawford’s walk-off on May Day, the Sox have been among the major league leaders in just about every offensive category. It’s not an accident. This is exactly what Crawford is getting the big bucks to do. Ignite the offense. Get on base. Drive in runs when they’re out there. Go first to third. Steal bases. Score from first on a double. Basically torture the other team. He’s been doing just that. And, he’s been doing it from the bottom of the order. The question now becomes, what to do with him now that he’s hitting?
I assume the Red Sox would like him batting second. I know that’s where I’d like him. But this line-up is so potent it makes everything more difficult. Jacoby Ellsbury has apparently figured out how to lead off. He needs to stay there. If there’s a better third spot hitter than Gonzalez, I don’t know who he is. Youkilis has been great in the clean-up spot. Ortiz had been dangerous behind him. Suddenly, batting six or seven isn’t exactly a demotion. I heard someone on the pregame yesterday suggest fifth, in front of Ortiz. The thought being that if Crawford’s on first, they can’t play a shift against Papi. That was an interesting thought. It splits up the speed a bit, so there’s a chance of having a speedster on base almost every inning. It’s tempting.
It boils down to whether Crawford or Pedroia should bat second. I’m still leaning towards having Ells-Crawford start things off. So, does Pedroia shift to third, or seven? At the moment? He’s hitting more like a seventh place hitter. But, eventually, I want him getting more at bat. No matter how I look at it, I can’t stop myself from hitting him third.
Sure, moving everyone down gets them fewer at-bats…in theory. But, I’m willing to bet that Gonzalez will still be at the plate plenty of times. Even batting fourth. But, I think that’s the way it needs to be.
In the end? It probably doesn’t really matter. If everyone hits, this team will score runs with Salty leading off.
But, it would be more fun my way.